SUMMARY: The capacity of Campylobacter jejuni to generate genetic diversity was determined for its flagellar region. Recombination within a genome, as well as recombination after the uptake of exogenous DNA, could be demonstrated. The subunit of the flagellar filament of C. jejuni is encoded by two tandem genes, flaA and flaB, which are highly similar and therefore subject to recombination. A spontaneous recombination within this locus was demonstrated in a bacterial clone containing an antibiotic-resistance gene inserted in flaA. A recombinant was isolated in which the antibiotic-resistance gene had been repositioned into flaB, indicating that genetic information can be exchanged between the two flagellin genes of C. jejuni. The occurrence of recombinational events after the uptake of exogenous DNA by naturally competent bacteria was demonstrated with two mutants containing different antibiotic-resistance markers in their flagellin genes. Double-resistant transformants were formed when purified chromosomal donor DNA was added to a recipient strain, when the two bacterial cultures were mixed under conditions that induce natural competence, or when the two strains were co-cultured. Both mechanisms of recombination may be used by the pathogenic organism to escape the immunological responses of the host or otherwise adapt to the environment.


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